From the Horse’s Mouth – Botswana

Officially the Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. Botswana has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods.

The massive Central Kalahari Game Reserve is home to numerous animals including giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs. The citizens refer to themselves as Batswana (singular: Motswana). Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966.

Since then, it has maintained a strong tradition of stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and the best perceived corruption ranking in Africa for the last four years.

When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

When meeting, a standard greeting in English is: “Hello, how are you?” A typical Botswana greeting involves saying “Dumela” and shaking hands.

What languages are spoken in your country?

The official languages of Botswana are Setswana and English.

What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in Botswana?

Botswanans drive on the left and pass on the right. Traffic in Botswana is not a major issue, but locals are known to take their time on the road.

How important is punctuality?

Punctuality is important but it’s not uncommon for locals to practice ‘African time’, being slightly late.

Which types of music are popular? Who are some of your most popular musicians?

South African music and American pop music are common in Botswana. TV’s and radios often play a lot of the popular international music.

Botswana has a strong hip hop scene, and has aired a national hip hop radio show, Strictly Hip Hop, to promote the genre. Motswako, a genre of hip hop, originated in Botswana in the 1990s, and is also popular in South Africa.

Folk music is also popular in Botswana. Tswana music is primarily vocal, performed without drums and makes extensive use of string instruments, particularly the guitar. In the absence of drums, a clapping rhythm is used in music with a typical call-and-response vocal style. Culture Spears is a Tswana traditional Music group comprising 5 young artists who sing in the Setswana language.

Are there any traditional dances?

The common dance styles in Botswana include Borankana, Phathisi, Setapa, Tsutsube, Ndazola, Kalanga hosana, and Chesa. Among other things, dance is used for storytelling. The Kuru Dance Festival takes place every two years in August and lasts up to three days.

Dikakapa is a traditional dance group formed in 2006, drawing inspiration from artists such as Seragantswana, Scar,Vee, Gong Master, and Extra Musica.

  • Watch a video of it here.

What traditional festivals are celebrated in your community?

Independence Day, commonly called Boipuso, is a national holiday observed in Botswana on September 30th of every year. The date celebrates Botswana’s Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on September 30th, 1966.

Taking place in May, Letlhafula is an annual food festival, held to celebrate the harvest.

Founded in 2004, and taking place in March, Son of the Soil is an annual, themed, cultural festival that involves song, dance, food, and dress.

What are your seasons like?

The whole country has hot summers. The rainy season is short. The dry season lasts from April to October in the south and to November in the north. The south of the country is most exposed to cold winds during the winter period.

What are Botswana’s major industries?

Botswana’s economy has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a cautious foreign policy. Its largest product export is diamonds, followed by nickel, copper, and gold. Outside the mining industry, Botswana also has a highly successful tourism industry, which accounts for almost 12% of the country’s GDP, and revolves around Botswana’s unique ecosystem, providing tourists with the opportunity to view a wide variety of animals including giraffes, rhino, buffalo, and one of the largest herds of free-ranging elephants in the world.

How do people spend their free time?

Many people spend their time socializing, shopping, and travelling around Botswana when they have free time. Excellent holidays can be had at the Chobe National Park, which provides great scenery, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Residents of Gaborone may climb to the top of Kgale Hill for an aerial view of the city or spend some time at the Botswana Botanical Garden or the local Yacht Club.

What do people drink?

Alcohol: beer, spirits, wine. There are various traditionally produced alcoholic drinks. Bojalwa ja Setswana (the beer of Botswana) is brewed from fermented sorghum seeds. Other tribes, like Bakalanga, use lebelebele (millet). A commercially produced and packaged beer, Chibuku, brewed from either maize or sorghum, is a favourite drink particularly in the villages and towns.

Milk is fermented to make madila (sour milk), which is eaten on its own or added to porridge.

A favourite non-alcoholic homemade drink is ginger beer.

What is a popular local dish?

Mealie meal and red meat. Popular foods in remote areas include the morama bean, a huge underground tuber, and an edible fungus.

What do you pay for? (1 USD = approx. 13,57 BWP)

  • A cup of coffee in a restaurant will cost you approximately P28.
  • A can of Coca Cola will cost you approximately P11.
  • A 2-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant will cost you approximately P400.
  • A loaf of bread will cost you approximately P10.
  • A litre of milk will cost you approximately P16.

General Safety?

Botswana is generally a safe country. People should, as a general precaution, be aware of their surroundings, especially when walking around at night. Visitors should take care when walking with handbags and using cell phones while walking around. If possible, walk with someone else, rather than alone.

And in conclusion…

Famous (and sometimes infamous…) people from Botswana include:

Amantle Montsho – a female sprinter who specialises in 400m races. She represented Botswana at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. She also competed at the World Championships in Athletics and the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Mpule Keneilwe Kwelagobe – a model and beauty queen from Gaborone, Botswana. She was crowned Miss Universe in May 1999.

Sir Seretse Khama – The first president of the country. He is praised for transforming the country’s economy from one of the poorest in the continent to a successful economy.


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Written by Andrew Stegmann.

Edited by Saudika Hendricks.

Contributions by Mohumi Maswabi.